JOHNSTON, J. M., D. J. MCGARVEY, M. C. BARBER, G. F. LANIAK, J. E. BABENDREIER, R. S. PARMAR, K. L. WOLFE, S. R. KRAEMER, M. J. CYTERSKI, C. D. KNIGHTES, B. RASHLEIGH, L. A. SUAREZ, AND R. B. AMBROSE. An Integrated Modeling Framework for Performing Environmental Assessments: Application to Ecosystem Services in the Albemarle-Pamlico Basins (NC and VA,USA). ECOLOGICAL MODELLING. Elsevier Science BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 222(14):2471-2484, (2011).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses environmental models to inform rulemaking and policy decisions at multiple spatial and temporal scales. As decision-making has moved towards integrated thinking and assessment (e.g. media, site, region, services), the increasing complexity and interdisciplinary nature of modern environmental problems has necessitated a new generation of integrated modeling technologies. Environmental modelers are now faced with the challenge of determining how data from manifold sources, types of process-based and empirical models, and hardware/software computing infrastructure can be reliably integrated and applied to protect human health and the environment. In this study, we demonstrate an Integrated Modeling Framework that allows us to predict the state of freshwater ecosystem services within and across the Albemarle-Pamlico Watershed, North Carolina and Virginia (USA). The Framework consists of three facilitating technologies: Data for Environmental Modeling automates the collection and standardization of input data; the Framework for Risk Assessment of Multimedia Environmental Systems manages the flow of information between linked models; and the Supercomputer for Model Uncertainty and Sensitivity Evaluation is a hardware and software parallel-computing interface with pre/post-processing analysis tools, including parameter estimation, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis. In this application, five environmental models are linked within the Framework to provide multimedia simulation capabilities: the Soil Water Assessment Tool predicts watershed runoff; the Watershed Mercury Model simulates mercury runoff and loading to streams; the Water quality Analysis and Simulation Program predicts water quality within the stream channel; the Habitat Suitability Index model predicts physicochemical habitat quality for individual fish species; and the Bioaccumulation and Aquatic System Simulator predicts fish growth and production, as well as exposure and bioaccumulation of toxic substances (e.g., mercury). Using this Framework, we present a baseline assessment of two freshwater ecosystem services–water quality and fisheries resources–in headwater streams throughout the Albemarle-Pamlico. A stratified random sample of 50 headwater streams is used to draw inferences about the target population of headwater streams across the region. Input data is developed for a twenty-year baseline simulation in each sampled stream using current land use and climate conditions. Monte Carlo sampling (n = 100 iterations per stream) is also used to demonstrate some of the Framework's experimental design and data analysis features. To evaluate model performance and accuracy, we compare initial (i.e., uncalibrated) model predictions (water temperature, dissolved oxygen, fish density, and methylmercury concentration within fish tissue) against empirical field data. Finally, we ‘roll-up’ the results from individual streams, to assess freshwater ecosystem services at the regional scale.